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Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European ECEC

Final Report Summary - CARE (Curriculum Quality Analysis and Impact Review of European ECEC)

Executive Summary:
In line with the EU strategies for 2020 and the need for a systemic and integrated approach to Early Childhood education and Care (ECEC), the CARE-project (2014-2016) identified key issues and questions for which effective policy measures and instruments should be developed. They concern:
1. assessing the impact of ECEC
2. optimizing quality and curricula for ECEC to increase effectiveness
3. raising the professional competencies of staff
4. monitoring and assuring quality of ECEC
5. increasing the inclusiveness of ECEC, in particular for children from disadvantaged circumstances
6. funding of ECEC
7. the need for innovative European indicators of children’s well-being.
The project addressed these issues in an integrative way by combining state-of-the-art knowledge of factors determining personal, social and economic benefits of ECEC with knowledge of the mechanisms determining access to and use of ECEC. In developing a European knowledge base for ECEC, CARE added to the existing body of knowledge in two ways through:
• including recent and ongoing ECEC research from several European countries, and
• including the perspectives of important stakeholders with an integration of cultural beliefs and values.
The central aim of CARE was to develop:
• an evidence-based and culture-sensitive framework of developmental goals, quality assessment, curriculum approaches and policy measures for improving the quality and effectiveness of ECEC, and
• effective strategies of organizing, funding and governing ECEC that increase the benefits of ECEC.
The challenge, therefore, was to develop a framework for ECEC that integrates multiple goals and perspectives. This framework should be based on the competences and skills that young children need to develop in current societies, should identify the conditions that need to be fulfilled to promote child development and well-being, and should identify strategies and policy measures that support access to high quality provision, thereby enhancing the benefits of ECEC. In line with the EU strategies for 2020 and the need for a systemic and integrated approach to Early Childhood education and Care (ECEC), the project identified eight overarching objectives that guided the CARE project (in brackets: the work package (WP) number with the main responsibility for the objective):
1. To develop an evidence-based, culture-sensitive framework for defining and assessing quality of ECEC at the level of practice, curriculum and quality monitoring and assurance, taking into account the concerns of parents, professionals and the wider society (WP2-7).
2. To examine curriculum, pedagogy and quality characteristics that contribute most to child development, learning and well-being (WP2).
3. To determine which professional competences are needed for implementing high quality ECEC and to identify effective strategies of professional development (WP3).
4. To assess the impact of ECEC in Europe on short-, middle- and long-term, in particular for disadvantaged children, and to identify factors that moderate impact, including approaches to quality monitoring and assurance (WP4).
5. To identify factors that determine inclusiveness of ECEC, in particular for disadvantaged children (WP5).
6. To identify strategies of funding that can increase the long-term social and economic benefits and to perform a costs-benefits analysis (WP5).
7. To develop a set of indicators of well-being based on the framework that is sensitive to cultural variation in ECEC and to differences in the priorities of countries, for monitoring child well-being and governing ECEC (WP6).
8. To inform parents, professionals, service providers, teacher educators and policymakers about key-aspects of quality and effective curricula in ECEC, and to inform policy makers about effective strategies of governing and funding ECEC (WP7).
According to objective seven, Work Package 6 (WP6) is responsible for the process of developing a set of indicators of quality and well-being based on a framework that is sensitive to cultural variation in ECEC and to differences in the priorities of countries, for monitoring child well-being and governing ECEC (CARE, 2014). Thus, WP6 aims to integrate the CARE findings and provide a final, integrative report, together with WP1, based on inputs from all other WPs and on the discussions at the final project conference. In addition, the results of a comparative interview study among parents, practitioners and policy representatives across Europe (Stakeholder Study) are included in this endeavour.
Thus, WP6 initiates and coordinates the exchange of knowledge and research findings between all WPs, integrating the results of all WPs into a final comprehensive and culture-sensitive framework for ECEC quality and child well-being. Thereby a set of indicators for monitoring ECEC quality and child well-being that are appropriate for the range of cultures and countries within Europe should be provided.
An initial model has been provided at the beginning of the CARE project (see D6.1 Moser et al., 2014), drawing a broad picture of the core contents regarding ECEC quality and child well-being. The outline of an initial framework (D6.1) brought more clarity to the conceptual issues in the ECEC field. Based on Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological model of child development, we presented a preliminary framework to identify the systems and relations between systems that directly or indirectly influence child well-being and child development within ECEC. Current literature on well-being and quality in ECEC has been collected and was discussed on two plenary meetings of CARE. The draft for an initial framework includes part of the provided literature from the CARE partners.

Project Context and Objectives:
Good quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) can have important positive impact on individual children, their life opportunities, health and well-being, but also – and related to individual benefits – on society as a whole. The early years, due to high brain plasticity, are formative years in which the foundations are layed out for not only basic language, cognitive and affective systems, which are involved in later academic learning, but also of other important competences that we now commonly refer to as 21st century skills or ‘soft’ skills. The malleability of the brain also involves a distinct risk, i.e. that stressful, non-stimulating environments may lead to irreversible damage at high cost not only for the individual child, but also for society. This risk is especially significant when stressful, unsupportive and non-stimulating environments occur on a systematic scale for many children. With currently one in every four children living in poverty and being at risk for social exclusion, there is a clear challenge here. Also in relation to the central topic of the CARE project, it is of utmost importance to create and improve the infrastructure for early education and care, and to improve the quality and accessibility of this infrastructure in order to ensure that all children, regardless of social or cultural background, have a great start in life.

Aims of CARE

The CARE project has to be situated in this context. Funded by the European Union, within the 7th framework programme, a multidisciplinary team from 11 countries from all over Europe has been working on the topics of curriculum, quality, well-being, impact, access, funding and governance, and the role of professionals. The main goal of CARE was to come up with an updated set of indicators – or verifiable criteria - of quality, well-being and the potential impact of ECEC, which would not only fit with European cultures and traditions, but also would project to the challenges of the near future – challenges like maintaining and increasing social cohesion in an increasingly diverse society.
The usefulness of such a framework can be manifold. It can guide national governments in designing or redesigning the country’s ECEC system; it can function as a comprehensive – coherent and consistent – framework for evaluation, monitoring and quality assurrance; it can guide teacher educators in setting up education programmes; it can support ECEC centres and leadership in creating inclusive and effective organizations; and it can support educators in shaping daily practice.
To realize this ambitious goal, we designed several research and development projects within CARE, using multiple – quantitative and qualitative – methodologies and involving stakeholders in several ways. In conducting the studies, we attempted to be sensitive to cultural differences in views, beliefs and preferences between the countries involved, and between the different social and ethnic-cultural communities within these countries. The result was a framework of verifiable, that is, observable or measurable, indicators of quality and well-being, published as report D6.3 and summarized in the current report in Section 3.
Starting with the idea that concepts like quality and well-being are contested, and that, underlying these concepts, the views of stakeholders – parents, educators, policymakers - on development, learning and socialization would show marked cultural differences that should be taken into account, there was a remarkable first finding in the CARE project. We conducted a large-scale survey in 9 diverse countries across Europe, representing different welfare regimes and levels of national income, to determine what stakeholders, in particular parents, think are the important competences and attitudes that should be fostered in ECEC. Such considerations should inform recommendations regarding the ECEC curriculum. Applying state-of-the-art statistical tools, we found that the ways in which parents and educators talk about developmental and learning goals, and also about quality and well-being in ECEC, is conceptually equivalent across countries. Thus, we apparently have a shared language to address these topics. Having a shared language does not necessarily mean that we find particular goals or quality aspects equally important. On the contrary, we can differ in these regards, but we differ within the same semantic frames and this allows for comparison of views and – indeed – shared concepts and goals in a European quality framework.

Curriculum analysis and stakeholders survey

The CARE project begun with analyzing a representative set of existing European curricula for ECEC, specifying the values of a country, the domains of learning and development to be covered, the goals to be reached, and the pedagogies that should support attaining these goals. The curriculum analysis yielded many valuable insights – also, for instance, about what type of curriculum could work best in regulating ECEC practice. Should it be a very specific concrete one, detailing almost in behavioural terms what educators should do, or a very global, philosophical-ethical one leaving lots of room for interpretation and elaboration. Here we will only briefly summarize the findings on the developmental and learning goals in terms of the skills and competences addressed in European curricula and how they match with what parents see as important to foster in ECEC.
ECEC curricula in European countries are quite elaborate and specific regarding pre-academic skills, which lead to the academic ‘hard’ skills as we tend to term them. Pre-academic skills include pre-literacy and pre-mathematical skills, language and communication skills, sometimes also scientific reasoning. European curricula, however, are less well articulated when it comes to social-emotional ‘soft’ skills, learning attitudes, creativity, citizenship, collaboration and the like. Here is a challenge for ECEC to renew and update national curriculum guidelines, not only in view of new societal and economic demands, but also in view of what parents regard as important skills and competences, often showing an interesting contrast with what is in the national curricula. Parents in the CARE-survey mentioned openness to learning and new experiences, curiosity and creativity, self-esteem and self-consciousness, emotional self-regulation and interpersonal social skills as important, more important than pure academics skills.
There are, however, differences between countries and there are differences between parents by social class and immigration background. It has been found before in research that parents with an immigration background, in particular when they are also lower educated, tend to emphasize academic preparation more than native middle-class parents do. It has sometimes been interpreted as reflecting a more ‘traditional view’ of early childhood development and learning. In CARE we think a different interpretation is relevant: these parents see academic preparation as valuable because they know that their children will profit from it. Indeed, their children need early support in this area in order to have a great start in life. Interestingly, and supporting our interpretation, immigrant parents did not value the soft skills less. Here is another challenge for European ECEC: to design curricula that serve all purposes well.

Case studies of European ECEC

The concepts of quality and well-being were also studied in-depth by observing how these concepts are actually put into practice in the group or classroom, and how national curriculum guidelines are actually implemented in the daily activities provided to children. In the observational case study, 32 classrooms were selected as exemplars of good practice according to national experts – and thus, according to these experts, as exemplifying culture-specific ways of realising quality, well-being, and the curriculum of these countries.
We had a kind of null-hypothesis: quality and well-being could be validly evaluated with a standard quality assessment system – a null-hypothesis that we put to the test. We chose to evaluate the observed practices with the CLASS (Classroom Assessment Scoring System) . All practices were videotaped, covering several situations normally occurring in all centres – playtime, mealtime, educational activities, creative work et cetera, and all videotapes were double-coded by an international team of observers using the CLASS . The choice of the CLASS as standard instrument was based on the fact that the CLASS , though developed and initially evaluated in the USA, is already frequently used in European countries. A similar procedure was applied to observe children’s well-being, using the Leuven Involvement and Well-being Scales.
Next the videotapes and the CLASS-based evaluations were discussed with groups of educators in four countries, discussing the practices observed in other countries and relating them to their own practices. Again there was an important finding. The coding of the videos revealed high inter-coder reliability, thus high agreement and similarity across countries and across observers. Also the qualitative part, involving focus group discussions, revealed a common understanding of the basic constructs of quality and well-being, which, moreover, were thought to be largely covered by the CLASS . Yet, there remained a few aspects that were not, which we discuss in the next section.
Overall, all selected good practices, despite differences in physical circumstances, design and lay-out of the playrooms, strategies of group management and how daily activities were shaped, scored high on the social-emotional process quality dimensions of the CLASS and in the mid-level range on the educational dimensions, substantially higher than is usually found in ECEC research with the CLASS. There were no systematic differences between countries. Thus, the null-hypothesis could not be rejected, yet important additions to the traditional quality concept were found to be relevant.

European perspectives on quality

Are there European-specific perspectives on quality as well? The answer is yes. What is currently underemphasized in standard quality observation tools, such as the CLASS, and also in the theory and science of child development is, what we have called, the group or community perspective. The predominant focus on dyadic models of educator-child relationships, reflected in traditional quality dimensions as the educator’s sensitivity to individual children’s needs and in the importance attributed to relationship of individual children to the educators, need urgently to be complemented by a stronger and more explicit focus on the group of children as a community of learners.
There are remaining issues. Even in this set of selected good practices, we observed difficulties in implementing a balanced curriculum and particularly in integrating play and learning. We frequently observed a kind of dissociation: educational, pre-academic activities and rich conceptual contents were provided in whole group circle time, with a directive educator controlling the discourse and with relatively short Inquiry-Response-Feedback sequences of talking instead of deep-going sustained shared thinking and extended dialogues. In contrast, soft skills were more implicitly promoted in free time activities in which children were given maximum freedom and control, and ample opportunities to do things together, but often in an unsupervised situation and often not resulting in very rich and stimulating processes, with relatively low CLASS scores as a consequence. Here is another challenge for European ECEC, to further improve integrated play-and-learning models that serve academic development and learning but also foster new skills for the 21st century.
There were already good examples in the CARE videos of such integrated models. We observed several instances of small group work, often related to topics from mathematics, science and technology – but topics from history or social psychology could do equally well – showing high involvement of the children, rich conceptual content and language exchanges in the form of extended educational dialogues. Examples of what we think are good solutions to the classical dilemmas and tensions in ECEC practice have been made available through CARE’s annotated video-library. The video-library shows what our international jury and the educators participating in the focus groups found good examples, and explains why they are good examples and how they relate to common understandings of quality as exemplified in the observation instrument CLASS and the additions we have proposed. We think the library can be useful for practitioners to reflect on their practice and can be useful in teacher education programmes. It is interesting to note that the best practices entered in the library came from all countries, not only from Northern Italy.

Structural quality and professional development

From process quality to structural quality: what essential structural conditions need to be fulfilled in order to reach a high level of process quality and a balanced, integrated curriculum? Unfortunately, there are no simple answers, nor, for that reason, can we rely solely on simple structural quality regulations to ensure good process quality.
The CARE team re-analysed large recent data sets from five countries in which similar measures were used for structural quality and observed process quality using instruments such as the CLASS, ECERS-R and ECERS-E. Structural factors measured in all studies were group size, children-to-staff ratio, educators’ work experience, educators’ pre-service training level, and in-service professional development. Also the group composition in terms of proportion of disadvantaged children was determined. In line with an increasing body of evidence, no consistent effects of a single structural characteristic on observed process quality were found. Effects were weak at best and sometimes contrary to expectations.
Subsequent analyses showed significant and often substantial interaction effects between structural characteristics, indicating that structural factors work together to produce a certain level of process quality. We found moderating and compensating effects showing that the possibly negative influence of, for instance, a big group size was compensated by a higher training level of the educator or by continuous professional development in the ECEC centres. In sum, we found that structural factors co-occur in particular ensembles or configurations that exert systemic effects on process quality. Providing in-service professional development, however, was among the most consistent positive moderators, showing compensatory effects for most negative effects found for other structural factors. Public compared to private provision showed similar compensatory effects.
Structural characteristics do not come in random ensembles. A worrying finding was that in several of the studies ensembles of negative or suboptimal conditions were found in classrooms serving mainly disadvantaged children which, in turn, was related to lower observed process quality, giving these children a double disadvantage. Another important moderator was the state’s or country’s policy regarding disadvantaged groups. If a targeted policy was in place, especially in relation to public ECEC provision (but not exclusively so), disadvantaged children actually received higher structural and process quality compared to more advantaged children.
What do parents think about structural quality, centre policies and aspects such as flexibility and affordability? We asked them in the stakeholders survey. First of all, by far the most important aspect for parents when considering the use of ECEC or when evaluating current use, is the well-being and development of their child. Next aspects like a well-equipped and attractive indoor and outdoor environment, sensitive and affectionate educators, and a good organizational climate with a cohesive team and attention to professional development were mentioned as important quality chracteristics. Less important, in parents’view, were the classical structural quality factors such as the distance between home and centre, the flexibility of use and the costs, although with regard to costs, we found strong variation in opinions between and within countries.
Costs of ECEC do matter for parents when they consider the use of a particular form of ECEC, especially in poorer countries and for lower-income families. The discrepancy between the more affluent and the less affluent families, indicated here by educational attainment of the parents, is especially apparent in relatively wealthy countries (England, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway) and could easily lead to socially selective use of provisions that differ in costs and quality, a mechanism that may be further strengthened by the structure of the system. It is not difficult to imagine that in a split system, with a large private market, full freedom of choice, and without targeted measures to redistribute quality-related investments to lower income groups, the use of ECEC will be socially selective and will result in lower quality for those who need this quality most, as we indeed found for some countries in the analyses described above.
Professional development, provided in-service at the centre – or in networks of centres that function as learning communities - was often found to be a decisive factor. The literature reviews and the meta-analysis of European professional development programmes undertaken within the CARE-project also attest to this. Features of professional development that seem essential are: coaching-on-the-job and mentoring, especially for less experienced or less educated educators, a culture of frequent inter-collegial consultation and collaboration, and team-based learning and designing of curriculum activities as part of a wider inclusive, democratic and open learning culture of the ECEC centre. Especially important seems to be to built-in systematic feedback loops that feed information on practice into team-based reflection. Also relations with other organizations, openness to the surrounding social-cultural context, and sensitivity to the needs and potentials of the local community are essential aspects.
The intensive case studies conducted within CARE of three good practices provide very rich, detailed, ‘thick’ descriptions of the ways in which professional development and organizational development go hand-in-hand. The three case studies illustrate why professional development is a central factor for process quality that can compensate for less optimal structural conditions. Also the video case studies of good practices show how continuous professional development, team-cohesion and an inclusive organizational climate at the centre level are related to higher process quality.

Impact on individuals and society

A key question is whether participation in ECEC promotes development and early learning, and indeed contributes to a great start in life. To examine this, CARE conducted an extensive review of the extant literature. The review differentiates between ages 0- to 3 and 3- to 6 years and finds solid evidence for positive outcomes for the the 3- to 6-year-olds. Good quality ECEC, preferably starting at age three, or even earlier, positively influences all children’s development, but the strongest and most consistent contribution to equality of opportunity was good quality ECEC for children from low socioeconomic homes, immigrant families and language minorities. It is important to have a holistic programme in which emergent academic skills are stimulated along with social-emotional skills and that includes child-centred activities and play. The quantitave meta-analyses within CARE focused specifically on European evidence, showing positive effects of ECEC and concluding with the recommendation for planned activities addressing pre-academic skills for literacy and numeracy.
The evidence for the 0-3 year olds is less consistent and especially a very early start of centre-based ECEC with long hours per week may not be good for well-being and social-emotional development. However, again, for children in stressful and low-nurturing home situations, participation in ECEC from an early age is to be recommended.
CARE reviewed cost-benefit analyses conducted in the USA and a few other countries. CARE conducted a cost-benefit analysis itself of the Spanish preschool LOGSE reform, estimating a return rate of 4 euros for every invested euro. This is one of the very few cost-benefit analyses pertaining to Europe and the results are consistent with what has been found in other continents.
Cost-benefit analyses, moreover, clearly indicate that the overall returns on investment are strongly dependent on the effects obtained for disadvantaged children. The economic benefits of a policy introducing ECEC in terms of the support ECEC gives to families for labor market participation are relatively minor and the returns related to better outcomes for all children can be relatively small or even non-existent, where the non-disadvantaged already use ECEC prior to the introduction of the policy. This clearly indicates that investing in ECEC should be done in ways that increase the participation of children from disdavantaged groups, which may mean targeting as part of the policy.
Interestingly, and in support of the above interpretation, an analysis of the relation between post-war investments in day care to expand the coverage and to increase the quality in 22 OECD countries showed that these investments were indeed related to increased PISA-literacy scores at age 15. But in this case the benefits were almost all located in the higher income groups due to the fact that the investments did not systematically include measures to increase participation of lower-income groups, who overall made less use of the expanded and improved day care systems. As a matter of fact, the public investments were largely redistributed to the better-off families.

Accessibility and cultural barriers

Reaching out to lower income groups, to cultural and language minorities, to children from immigrant and refugee families is important for many reasons, but certainly also for economic reasons in view of the potential returns to society. What is needed to increase participation of these groups? There is a very obvious action that should be taken first: spend more on ECEC, expand the system, make it universally accessible – especially by income-dependent subsidy or fee reduction for low-income families. There is strong linear relation between spending, coverage and use.
However spending without taking undesirable side-effects into account may not be the wisest strategy. Analyses of large European data bases show that system characteristics, such as earlier starting age, a high degree of integration of services, universal access, high quality as indexed by staff qualifications, and substantial public investment, all contribute to higher perceived accessibility and, subsequently, also to higher uptake of the provision by disadvantaged groups. Yet, there are still barriers to use – especially barriers that relate to divergence in cultural beliefs and practices.
Cultural barriers can relate to parents’ view that, in particular for 0-3 years, children are best cared for by the parents at home. Parents with a lower education level or an immigrant background were found to be more in favor of home-care for the youngest children than other parents in the stakeholders study. Cultural barriers may also relate to the lack of cultural inclusiveness within our ECEC systems. The CARE focus group study among immigrant and native working class parents, and among educators working with these parents and their children, conducted in six countries, revealed several tensions in this regard, including feelings of being discriminated and undervalued, and a more general lack of trust in the official institutions of society. This requires a critical self-examination: are we truly inclusive and, if not, how can we improve here? The CARE findings suggest that increasing cultural inclusiveness should become a main focus of professional development.
An important issue mentioned frequently by immigrant parents, is the role of the heritage languages, the first languages of the children in immigrant communities and indigenous language minorities. The way the first language is often treated contributes to feelings of rejection and poor well-being. How to deal with the multiple languages present in ECEC is an issue that calls for clever solutions, based on the evidence that multilingualism as such is an asset and can have several cognitive advantages, and this requires new classroom pedagogies.

Views regarding diversity

How do parents and educators think about cultural diversity – how important is it to foster positive attitudes towards other cultural groups in young children and how important is a mixed, culturally diverse composition of the group and the staff of the ECEC centre? We asked these and related questions in the stakeholders survey. The results were not fully reassuring. In some countries parents and teachers alike attached high importance to fostering respect for diversity and to an adequate representation of diversity in the centre, but in other countries the support was rather low – even in countries with significant immigrant and indigenous minority groups. Parents with an immigration background, unsurprisingly, tended to put much higher value on respecting diversity and creating culturally inclusive ECEC.
It is not easy to explain the strongly differing patterns we found. There is a suggestive relationship with the predominant cultural orientation of a country in terms of Hofstede’s individualism-sociocentrism dimension, with parents and educators in countries that are more sociocentric expressing more support for diversity and inclusiveness. There is a suggestive relation with the type of ECEC system. Systems with socially and culturally segregated use are associated with less support for diversity and inclusion – maybe simply because in a segregated system there is not an immediately experienced need to deal with diversity. And maybe there is also a relation with the national discourse on integration and diversity, which in many countries has turned more negative the past years. Note that educators rate the importance of an inclusive diversity policy overall higher than parents do, especially in countries such as England, Greece, Italy, Norway and Portugal.
How about the support for multilingualism? Again we asked a number of questions to parents, educators and policymakers in countries participating in the CARE survey. The support for multilingual development is substantial among parents. Over 40% of all parents see the value of learning a second language early in life. The finding corresponds with a tendency observed in several countries where higher-educated parents put pressure on the ECEC system to introduce dual language programmes involving the country’s main language and another (European) language with high social prestige. However, this can easily lead to a paradoxical policy: on the one hand immigrant children are often forbidden to use their first languages in the ECEC centre and at school, and often parents are strongly advised to use only the second language at home, as reported in the CARE focus group study, and on the other hand dual language programmes are introduced in ECEC and primary schools. Not surprisingly, parents with a migration background who often speak the heritage language at home, are largely in favour of supporting dual language learning in ECEC. Note that educators and policymakersregard dual language learning, on average, much less important than parents. Support for bilingual development, whenever possible, is likely to contribute not only to children’s language competences and to cognitive advantages, but certainly and most importantly to children’s well-being as found in the focus group study.
How do European curricula deal with multiculturalism and multilingualism? Based on the curriculum analysis conducted within CARE we conclude that there is work to be done here. Although respecting cultural diversity in ECEC is recommended in most curricula, only some curricula specify support for bilingual development as desirable. The way in which this support should or could be made concrete, however, is unspecified or non-committal. There may be good reasons. It is difficult to provide full support to children’s first languages in the face of current linguistic super-diversity if you really want to create sufficient quantity and quality of exposure. Yet, maybe we can somehow circumvent the obvious organizational and financial barriers.

European indicators of quality and well-being

By integrating the evidence which is summarised above, the CARE team has developed a framework of concrete, verifiable European quality indicators. The term ‘indicator’ as used in the CARE framework might cause confusion. In some (policy) contexts, an indicator is taken to mean an actual fact or figure regarding a particular state of affairs. In the current context, the term indicator means a concrete, verifiable manifestation of a recommended, desirable practice. Although many indicators will not be surprising, as they reflect broad and long established consensus for which we found supportive evidence, there are a number of innovations.
Following the findings of the CARE study about effective monitoring and quality assurrance systems, there is a clear need to align quality monitoring at the centre, municipal, regional, state and country level more strongly and consistenly than is usually the case, and to strive for a comprehensive and coherent quality monitoring framework that includes all system levels and pertains to all types of ECEC. Therefore, we chose to distinguish between indicators at the macrolevel of regions, states or countries, at the mesolevel of centres and services – and in some countries the municipalities insofar as the municipalities are the service providers – and at the microlevel of the group. And we added child level indicators to assure that also child well-being and outcome quality are part of the broad quality concept.
We designed the indicators to be recursive and co-referential between system levels, reflecting our conviction that for high quality of services and high levels of child well-being, the whole multilevel ECEC system should be a competent, professional system with clear and up-to-date national curriculum guidelines, a clear legal framework for quality monitoring and quality assurance, and appropriate divisions of roles and responsibilities. Following the findings of CARE on professional development and organizational functioning we emphasise quality creation and quality assurrance at the level of ECEC centres and at the level of the educators, who need to function as be embedded and connected professionals working in teams. At the group level, we added indicators emphasizing the importance of group sensitivity, collaborative group processes and peer-learning. At the child level we included indicators of children’s immediate as well as future well-being. Throughout the framework, at all levels, we added indicators that emphasize active commitment of ECEC to diversity and inclusion. And at all levels, we updated the goals of early development and learning, and associated pedagogical approaches, to suit child rights and current demands of parents and society.
The indicators can be regarded as evidence-informed recommendations for practice of high quality to increase the beneficial impact of ECEC on individual children, their families and communities, and society at large. The indicators allow verification. They can be operationalized in assessment scales and benchmarks for internal self-evaluation, for external quality monitoring, and for policy-relevant comparisons across countries.
Concluding remarks

It was a big adventure, but an inspiring one and, we hope, an adventure of high relevance to practice and policy. Throughout the CARE project we involved representatives of stakeholder groups to ensure that our work made sense to them and to include their views and experiences in further developing our work. In addition to the stakeholders survey, involving over 3400 parents, 3200 educators and 300 policymakers across Europe, numerous national and international conferences with professionals, policymakers and reserachers were used to critically discuss the CARE findings. We sent out newsletters, used facebook and maintained an interactive website for sharing the results and recommendations. We published in scientific journals and in journals for professionals. We created the video-library with annotated examples of good practices for the professional field. The Framework of European Indicators of Quality and Well-being was extensively discussed with the Advisory Committee to CARE and with external experts from all countries participating in CARE at the final CARE conference in Lisbon on the 6th and 7th of October 2017. We are very grateful to our advisors. The work of CARE was prominently present at the Great Start in Life conference in Brussels, on the 30th of November and 1st of December 2017, organized by the European Commission in collaboration with the CARE team.

Project Results:
The CARE Dissemination Kit (D7.5.) provides an overall picture of the productivity and dissemination activities of the CARE consortium as a whole. The CARE team produced over 20 scientific reports and 9 papers in scientific and/or professional journals. The publications page that houses the CARE reports on the website has received over 4,000 views. Regarding scientific publications, although the majority are still under review, the paper “Breaking the cycle of poverty: challenges for European early childhood education and care” by CARE coordinator Paul Leseman and CARE researcher Pauline Slot published in the European Early Childhood Education Research Journal in 2014 has already had 1641 views in the publication site, 11 Citations (according to Google Scholar), and 44 reads (according to ResearchGate).
Of all other CARE research products, it is important to highlight the European Framework of Quality and Wellbeing Indicators and the CARE Video Library. The European Framework of Quality and Wellbeing Indicators gathers evidence-based recommendations to increase the beneficial impact of ECEC on individual children, their families and communities, and society at large. These indicators are based on the findings from all CARE workpackages and on extensive discussions with the CARE Advisory Committee and invited external experts. The CARE video library provides videos that illustrate examples of good practices in European ECEC, highlighting cross-cultural commonalities in several ECEC systems, while respecting the cultural diversity in Europe. The videos were selected to be used for professional development activities, and are the result of a joint venture between European researchers and practitioners from different cultural backgrounds, and their shared agreement on good-quality ECEC practices. To highlight the interest on this public resource made available by CARE researcher, we note that the post announcing the CARE Video library was viewed by over 7700 people (by February 24th, 2017), the official launch on February 2nd has since been viewed by over 3600 people (by February 24th, 2017), and over 30 people have signed up for access.
During the project, CARE researchers were involved in approximately 90 scientific presentations and/or symposia as well as over 95 presentations to diverse stakeholder groups, including the EC and OECD, parent and teacher associations, and teachers in training. CARE researchers had prominent participation in stakeholder-involvement conference “A Great Start in Life” co-organized by the European Commission, DG Education and Culture, Unit B2 (Schools and Educators; Multilingualism) and European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, Unit B6 (Open and Inclusive Societies), which took place in Brussels (November 30 to December 1, 2016). The CARE participation included a keynote speech by CARE coordinator Paul Leseman on “Latest research results on inclusive early education and social support to tackle inequalities in culturally diverse societies”, as well as active involvement in all five pep talks by CARE researchers (Access and inclusion; ECEC and primary school professionals; Governance and funding, part 1, part 2; Monitoring and evaluation; Curriculum and pedagogies). The conference page had 247 views on our website and over 500 views on facebook.
In terms of scientific dissemination events, CARE researchers involvement in the EARLI (or European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction) conferences in 2014 (Jyvaskyla, Finland), 2015 (Cyprus), and 2016 (Porto, Portugal) made important contributions to the research field in ECEC, as well as to the discourse on the importance of quality practices and investments in education (see for example the abstracts for the conference symposium on the “Multiple Case-Study On Curriculum Implementation And Process Quality In ECEC”).
Furthermore, the CARE consortium research activities supported at least 5 graduate students conducting their master’s and doctoral projects, with high impact. The work on the “Accessibility and Inclusiveness of Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe” by Özgün Ünver and supervisor Ides Nicaise provides groundbreaking insights into the experiences and perceptions of disadvantaged families (in particular, low-income families with and without a migration background) in the field of early childhood education and care in Europe (summaries of the qualitative and quantitative studies are available on our website for download).
The CARE team continuously used online and audiovisual tools to disseminate its efforts and results. The CARE website, Facebook page, and Youtube channel were the main dissemination outlets and several indicators can be used to document the extended impact of the CARE project. The CARE website received over 19000 visits from over 13000 users (with 31% of returning visitors), with nearly 60000 page views, with a relative increase throughout the project and relevant peaks in December 2016. Interestingly, the United States was the 4th top visitor country, which documents the CARE impact outside the EU. Seven newsletters were published and distributed to 297 subscribers and 655 Facebook followers from 10 different countries. The 7th CARE Newsletter, published January 2017, reached over 1100 people on Facebook. Other posts reached a considerable number of people through the CARE Facebook page, including the post announcing the release of the video and leaflet “CARE in a nutshell” (over 3800 people, by February 19th, 2017).
The CARE Youtube channel (14 subscribers) hosts 22 videos, documenting several stages of the CARE implementation and results of several Work Packages. The number of visualizations varies, reaching over 500 views for the video of CARE coordinator Paul Leseman on cultural sensitiveness.
Interest from the media is also documented on the CARE Dissemination Kit, based on interviews of CARE researchers in media targeting both general and professional audiences, and articles mentioning the CARE project in blogs and newspapers targeting general audiences.

Selection of Deliverables
• CARE final report (D6.4) By Paul Leseman and Thomas Moser
• European Framework of Quality and Wellbeing Indicators (D6.3) by Thomas Moser, Paul Leseman, Edward Melhuish (England), Martine Broekhuizen (Netherlands), and Pauline Slot (Netherlands)
• Video Library (D2.5 & D7.4) by WP2 (Joana Cadima, Jenni Salminen, Giulia Pastori, Pauline Slot, Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen) and WP7 (M. Clara Barata, CecíliaAguiar, Carsten Henriksen)
• Stakeholders study: Values, beliefs and concerns of parents, staff and policy representatives regarding ECEC services in nine European countries: First report on parents (D6.2) by Martine Broekhuizen, Paul Leseman, Thomas Moser, Karin van Trijp.
• A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Universal Preschool Education (D5.4) by Thomas van Huizen, Lisa Dumhs & Janneke Plantenga
• Multiple case study in seven European countries regarding culture-sensitive classroom quality assessment (D2.3) by Pauline Slot, Joana Cadima, Jenni Salminen, Giulia Pastori, Marja-Kristiina Lerkkanen.
• Inclusiveness of Early Childhood Education and Care: Seven Case Studies across Europe (final version) (D5.2.1) by Özgün Ünver, Tuba Bircan, Ides Nicaise
• Accessibility and use of early childhood education and care: a comparative analysis of 34 European countries (D5.2.2) by Özgün Ünver, Tuba Bircan, Ides Nicaise
• Effects of ECEC on academic outcomes in literacy and mathematics: Meta-analysis of European longitudinal studies (D4.2) by Hannah Ulferts, Yvonne Anders, Paul Leseman and Edward Melhuish.

Potential Impact:

List of Websites:
The impact section including the links to all relevant documents has been uploaded as a pdf
The Dissemination kit, containing annotated descriptions of all items of dissemination has been included as a pdf